“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” ~ Miles Davis
I know I’m a rank novice when it comes to stillness and listening to the small voice within. I’ve been experimenting long enough that I am familiar with what works for me, whether it’s journaling or yoga or piano or walking in the woods or even mundane activities done with mindfulness. Yet it’s all too easy to be pulled away, to sink back into the muck of the modern world around me, with its incessant noise and technology and blather, its crises and escapism.
This is all an easy excuse, of course. I’ve been away from this blog too much lately, and I’m out of sorts. One of my ways of cultivating the timeless and nourishing energies of creation is to write, to polish a bit and release the results into the world. With regular practice, this becomes second nature. I can count on something pouring forth or trickling in, depending on the quality of my attention. When I allow myself to go completely off the rails, I lose that flow and close up. It becomes a chore to receive gifts that were once freely offered. This toggling back and forth can be exhausting.
This morning, making tea in the kitchen, I thought that a bit of external validation would go a long way right now. Not that I need it, exactly, just that I’ve been putting things out there and saying that I release expectations and will accept whatever happens (or doesn’t happen). It’s technically true that none of this is about outcomes, but I do still care. Being in constant limbo is sometimes uncomfortable. And discomfort with the unknown can lead to the search for easy comfort. I step out of the flow or allow myself to be lulled away, into a state of compliant catatonia.
Just do the work, step by step, little by little. Each word a tiny snowflake falling unconcerned from a luminous sky. Take the long view. Do what is in front of you to do. Don’t plan too far ahead, dream no grandiose visions for a glorious future. Be modest, be humble, be grateful when a lovely phrase comes. Consider it a miracle that you can even recognize that it is a good phrase. Catch it as a snowflake on your tongue. Marvel at the connection between tongue and voice.
This morning, I’m willing to ask, what happens when I give way to that tremendous pull back into the dominant culture? I can let myself be taken for days at a time, even knowing my acquiescence will silence the subtle voice of the living earth and snuff out my creative genius. I can’t find a pretty metaphor to wrap it in, either. It’s not like a turtle pulling into his shell, hiding until it’s safe to emerge. At least that turtle is still alive in there. Or the bluebird in Bukowski’s heart.
It’s not quite living when I park myself in front of Netflix, wanting to numb out, to be entertained and amused. Oh, just let me watch the Super Bowl and those clever commercials with a bunch of friends, gorging on guacamole and beer, chili and brownies. That’s what everyone else is doing. That’s where my loved ones are, and I want to be with them.
Am I over-glorifying when I say that it takes tremendous effort, strength, and even courage to step away from these temptations? Limiting my consumption of pop-culture leaves me open to ridicule and ostracism, to being misunderstood or marginalized. Ha! This feels like an elaborate effort to justify lazy, unproductive behavior. I do wonder if there’s a deeper message, though.
Many creative ventures, writing included, feel solitary so much of the time. It helps to be reminded that part of the pull back into the dominant culture is largely because that’s where people are, community, friends, family. It also happens to be where much of the material is—at least as sanctioned by that same culture. Luckily I can also find solidarity and community elsewhere. I am in touch with many strong souls who have clear vision of life-affirming stories and ancient ways. It is always open to me to reach out, to be buoyed up by them, to celebrate their wins and support them in their struggles.